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UK government funding to boost biomass production
Farming seaweed and growing algae from the by-products of whisky manufacturing are among 24 projects to be awarded £4mn government funding to boost biomass production in the UK.
The 24 innovative projects, from start-ups and family-run businesses to research institutes and universities, will receive funding of up to £200,000 from the government’s Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme to produce low carbon energy using organic materials.
Biomass refers to sustainably derived plant material that can be used as fuel to produce energy or to create products such as chemicals and bio-plastics. It is a small but important part of the renewable energy mix that the UK requires to meet its net zero by 2050 target – and is also backed by the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change.
Biomass materials include non-food energy crops such as grasses and hemp, material from forestry operations and marine-based materials such as algae and seaweed.
The funding recipients include:
- Rickerby Estates in Carlisle has received over £150,000 to look at scaling-up the harvesting of willow crops using cutting-edge technology such as automated processing machinery controlled by GPS satellite guidance systems.
- Green Fuels Research in Gloucestershire has received over £190,000 for a project that will allow microscopic algae to be produced for biomass using wastewater from breweries and dairy industries.
- SeaGrown in Scarborough will use over £180,000 funding to develop new techniques to farm and harvest seaweed off the North Yorkshire coast, taking advantage of seaweed’s qualities as a source of biomass and its ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
- Impact Laboratories in Stirlingshire, Scotland, received over £170,000 to look at innovation in the commercial cultivation of algae utilising heat provided by geothermally-warmed water from abandoned mine sites.
- Aberystwyth University, Wales, has received over £160,000 for its ‘Miscanspeed’ project, which is looking at ways to improve the breeding of high-yielding, resilient Miscanthus (elephant grass) – grass varieties that are well-suited for biomass use - in the UK.
The Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme is funded through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) £1bn Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, which aims to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative clean energy technologies and processes through the 2020s and 2030s. This supports the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution that sets out the approach government will take to build back better, support green jobs, and accelerate the country’s path to net zero.
The UK government intends to publish a new biomass strategy in 2022 which will review the amount of sustainable biomass available to the UK and how this could be best utilised across the economy to help achieve the government’s net zero and wider environmental commitments.